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Causation and Reduction in Systems Biology (CRedS) (completed)

This project took issue with causation, explanation, and reduction in life sciences from the viewpoint of contemporary philosophy of biology and philosophy of explanation.

About the project

Project foci included the nature and epistemology of causation, explanatory reduction, and the notion of levels in research on complex biological systems.

The main goal of CRedS was to further the philosophical understanding of these topics in light of developments in systems biology, with special attention to modularity assumptions in explanation and modeling.


The complexity of biological systems challenges assumptions concerning modularity of biological mechanisms. At the same time, modularity assumptions and commitments are at the core of contemporary philosophical accounts of causation and explanation.

The project assessed, revised and developed these accounts, with the aim of contributing philosophical understanding and scientific conceptual development.

CRedS exemplified a metaphilosophy with two main components:

  1. philosophical analysis and understanding should aim at solving problems by developing and improving concepts; and
  2. such conceptual development is best done in light of concrete and independently motivated problems, aims and purposes.

For CRedS these are problems, aims and purposes arising within contemporary science, and within Systems Biology in particular. 


The project started fall 2014 and was completed march 2019.



The project involved national and international cooperation with philosophers and systems biologists, and employed an interdisciplinary approach to tackle philosophical-biological problems.


Master students

Two masterstudents have been affiliated with CRedS:

  • Bendik Hellem Aaby: "Mechanisms and Explanation: On the Origin of the New Mechanistic Philosophy"
  • Mori Diakite: "Interventionism, realism and invariance – the kind of metaphysics that matters".

They both successfully defended their master theses at the philosophy program at IFIKK, UiO, in the summer 2016. Anders was main supervisor and Gry was co-supervisor.

Published Aug. 24, 2020 10:09 AM - Last modified Feb. 5, 2021 2:24 PM